Back in Circulation
By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Medicine
Skirts, shorts, capris, culottes – these days, women have a lot of options for showing off their legs. But if you're one of the 80 million Americans with varicose veins, your legs probaby spend most of the time hidden under long pants and floor length skirts.
Unfortunately, about half of all American women will develop varicose or spider veins at some point in their lives. Not only are they unsightly, these leg problems can also cause discomfort. Typically, varicose veins are characterized by bulging, blue, sometimes painful and inflamed veins that appear primarily in the calves and thighs. Spider veins, on the other hand, show up as a web of fine lines that can make you legs look like a road map.
While age and heredity play a role in the development of varicose and spider veins, weight gain, pregnancy, menopause and the use of hormone replacement therapy can also trigger these vein problems. Making matters worse, chronic inactivity, standing for long periods of time or habitually crossing your legs can make you more prone to injured veins.
Conventional treatments include surgical stripping, injecting the veins with a chemical irritant or zapping them with lasers. While these approaches can remove existing varicose or spider veins, they won’t prevent new ones from developing since these high-tech treatments don’t address the underlying problem of poor circulation. Worse yet, these procedures can also cause infection, scarring, nerve damage and pain. If you’d rather not undergo these radical treatments, you'll be happy to hear that there’s a natural approach that not only improves the appearance of these ropy, bulging veins, it also fosters leg health to prevent future problems.
To understand how varicose veins develop, you need to know a little bit about how blood moves through the body. Essentially, there are two types of circulatory vessels in the body: the arteries, which channel blood from the heart to the extremities, and the veins, which bring blood from the extremities back to the heart. Of all the veins in your body, leg veins have the hardest time carrying blood back to the heart. To accomplish this difficult task, your legs are equipped with specially designed one-way valves that keep the blood moving in the right direction. But, as well as these valves work, your legs still fight a constant battle against the natural pull of gravity. And if the veins can't move the blood efficiently or the one-way valves that prevent the blood from backwashing fail to close properly, blood collects in the legs. This pooling blood then stretches the vein, causing swelling and injury to the vein’s walls.
Depending on the extent of the enlargement, these veins can show up as either spider or varicose veins. Spider veins are broken capillaries and small veins that appear as jagged red, blue or purple lines on the surface of the skin. While they aren’t painful, they can be extremely unattractive. Varicose veins are thick veins that run deeper beneath the skin. They are far larger and much less attractive than spider veins – and they can make your legs feel fatigued, heavy, achy or even itchy. Varicose veins can also cause burning, throbbing, cramping and restlessness.
While these conditions aren’t usually dangerous, severe cases can lead to chronic venous insufficiency – a persistent inability of the leg veins to adequately return blood back to the heart. Varicose veins are also assoicated with the development of skin ulcers or a chronic inflammation of a vein – a condition known as phlebitis. Often phlebitis is accompanied by formation of a blood clot – a dangerous situation since the clot can move from the leg vein and travel to the lungs.
Get a Leg Up
Your strategy for battling vein problems naturally is twofold: improving circulation and strengthening the vein walls. The first and simplest way to improve blood flow is to counteract gravity. Standing or sitting all day makes it harder for blood to move up from the legs and back to the heart. But taking a few minutes to rest with your legs higher than your head each day allows gravity to help return blood to the heart.
To strengthen the veins themselves, take a tip from Europeans. From Austria to France to Italy, women and their doctors have relied on Diosmin for more than three decades to treat circulatory problems affecting the legs – and with good reason. Clinical trials show that this unique bioflavonoid, which is derived from the rind of several citrus fruits, is a highly effective way to boost circulation and strengthen the veins in the legs. Not only does this improve existing varicose and spider veins, it can also reduce the likelihood of future problems.
What makes Diosmin so amazing is its power to specifically target the blood vessels in the legs, improving both elasticity and microcirculation while relieving pain and inflammation. Because of its direct action on the integrity of vein walls, Diosmin also reduces the amount of fluid that leaks out of them. But Diosmin’s protective benefits don’t stop there. Because it is a potent antioxidant, Diosmin also prevents free radical damage that can undermine vein health.
In one clinical trial conducted at the University of Hong Kong Medical Centre, people who suffered from pain and swelling due to varicose veins experienced significant improvement in their symptoms after taking Diosmin for six months. A review of studies by Swiss researchers also found that, among more than 5,000 patients with vein disorders, the vast majority not only saw a reduction in their discomfort, they actually saw the swelling in their calves and ankles diappear. Across the board, research shows that a daily dose of 500 to 1,000 mg of Diosmin improves the health of leg veins and brings tremendous relief from pain, night cramps and leg heaviness. It’s also extremely safe. Both short- and long-term use of this highly effective nutrient is well-tolerated, with no apparent side effects.
One Last Thing . . .
While no one questions Diosmin’s efficacy for treating varicose and spider veins, scientists have begun exploring other ways this potent flavonoid may boost health. Their main focus – cancer prevention – especially oral and skin cancers.
Researchers haven’t conclusively identified the cancer-fighting component in Diosmin, but preliminary experiments show that this flavonoid inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells. In two studies pitting Diosmin against other flavonoids like rutin, grapeseed extract and red wine, Spanish investigators found that Diosmin was considerably more effective at reducing the number of metastatic melanoma cells (a potentially deadly type of skin cancer cells that spread through the body) than any of the other flavonoids tested. Other studies have found that Diosmin puts the brakes on the spread of cancer cells in the mouth.
Although it could be years before science conclusively proves Diosmin’s cancer benefit, this nutrient can’t be beat for supporting vein health. Along with taking supplemental Diosmin, there are several simple strategies you can employ to encourage healthy circulation. Eating a high-fiber, antioxidant rich diet and getting plenty of exercise can help keep veins in top form. And remember to take a break and put your feet up every now and again.
This Just In . . .
If you listened to the news last week, you probably heard that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements were no better than dummy pills for relieving osteoarthritis pain. But, as usual, the news media only got it half right.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the government study, known as the Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), randomly assigned nearly 1,600 people with osteoarthritis of the knee to receive one of five treatments daily for 24 weeks: glucosamine alone, chondroitin sulfate alone, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate combined, Celebrex or a placebo. Of course, those participants with mild arthritis experienced more pain relief after taking Celebrex than those taking the placebo. But the people suffering relatively minor arthritis symptoms didn’t seem to benefit from the glucosamine, chondrointin or supplement combo. So technically, the media was right. The only problem is that they forget to tell you the rest of the story.
If they had read the entire study, the media would have discovered that a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin helped those with moderate-to-severe arthritis pain. In fact, they experienced just as much relief from the combination supplements as those taking the Celebrex. And, unlike Celebrex, the supplements showed no side effects during the government’s six-month study.
So the next time you hear a news report that flies in the face of well-established research, dig a little deeper. It could be that you’re only getting half the story.
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“Efficacy of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate May Depend on Level of Osteoarthritis Pain.” National Institutes of Health. 22 February 2006.
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